DeKalb City Council addresses public comment problems, P.R.I.D.E. awards
DeKALB – City council again grappled with whether to change the way residents can provide public comment during council meetings.
During Monday’s meeting, council tabled a vote to amend Chapter 2 of the City Council code, regarding a number of changes to the way council operates, first discussed at the Jan. 28 meeting. The vote would have amended the code to allow residents to comment on items on and off the agenda at any time during council meetings.
Current code restricts comments as such: Public comment not pertaining to any agenda item must be made at the beginning of the meeting. Residents must then wait for each agenda item to come up for discussion throughout the meeting, and may then provide comment. All residents must fill out a speaker request form, and all comments must be restricted to three minutes.
City Manager Bill Nicklas recommended council not approve the public comment process in a fiery appeal.
“I feel very strongly that we are making more than a good faith effort to keep the public informed,” Nicklas said. “We have local media which I think right now has never been as active in reporting on the businesses of this city government. And you can be emailed, texted, called.”
Nicklas also listed the city’s own outreach efforts, a point which Ward 1 Alderman David Jacobson echoed, saying Nicklas’ efforts to make the meetings more efficient is already being felt in shorter meetings, more comprehensive agenda packets for public view, and limiting staff report times during meetings.
Ward 5 Alderman Kate Noreiko said she was in support of changing public comment processes, to provide more opportunity for residents who don’t want to stay later to comment on an item.
Mayor Jerry Smith considered whether it would be appropriate for a resident to walk in at any time during the meeting and make a comment, to which many members in the public agreed, nodding their heads.
“This is a deliberative body, this is not a causal group,” Nicklas said. “I don’t know of any other legislative forum that would allow for that kind of continuous disconnected interruption. It defeats the democratic process.”
Nicklas will review council comments and bring the amendment back for a vote at a later date.
On behalf of the city’s Citizens’ Environmental Commission, Nicklas awarded two People Responsible for Improving DeKalb’s Environment awards.
They were given to Matthew Boelk, who works with three community gardens on Dresser Road, and Inboden’s Gourmet Meats and Specialty Foods Market, 1106 N. First St. Dustin Inboden was in attendance to accept the award for the efforts made by his business to reduce its carbon footprint and electrical consumption.